How Many Clubs Can You Carry In Your Golf Bag? Make Sure You’re Following The Rules

How Many Clubs in a Golf Bag?

If you are new to the sport of golf or have only dabbled in it, you have likely noticed that behind every golfer is a very eager caddy toting around a bag full of clubs. Each golfer’s bag is equipped with numerous golf clubs, ready for whatever need the golfer may have while on the course.

From your irons and putters to your wedges and hybrids, each club has a specific purpose depending on a variety of factors. So, to impress your non-golfing friends and family, or to avoid making yourself look like a fool next time you’re on the course, brushing up on your golf club knowledge is a must.

Why Are There So Many Types of Golf Clubs?

Before joining the golf scene, looking at a golf bag and seeing several different clubs is definitely confusing. You have a large fat clubhead, a thin clubhead, and a longer curved club head that are clearly used for different purposes. So, you must ask yourself:

Why are there so many types of golf clubs?

Each golf club is designed to launch the ball at a different distance and are designed to be used in a variety of atmospheres and terrains. For example, if you are on the green, it is not wise to use a driver that is designed to launch the ball far distances. You are going to want to take a more delicate approach, using a different club such as a putter.

With there being so many different types of golf clubs, how many clubs are in a golf bag?

The maximum number of clubs permitted in your golf bag is 14 with there being no minimum. If All you have is a driver that you bought at a yard sale, you are good to play a round of golf.

Why 14 Golf Clubs

14 golf clubs in a bag seems like a very specific number. With there being a variety of clubs and a limited number of designs, why are there only supposed to be 14 golf clubs in your golf bag, and where did this rule come from?

Rule History

The 14-Club rule was adopted by the USGA and R&A in 1936 and was implemented in 1938. Before then, wasn’t uncommon to see caddies lugging around 2 very full golf bags, amounting to 30 or more golf clubs. Golfers came prepared with backup clubs, right and left-handed clubs, and novelty clubs. It was a spectacle at times.

Source: USGA

It is not completely certain as to why the number 14 became the golden rule for clubs permitted in a golf bag, but it is a common belief that the reason for the maximum limit was solely to be nice to golf caddies. No other special reason is known.

Help the Caddies

Back when the rule was implemented, caddies were not compensated and tipped in quite the same fashion as they are now, so work required for them to lug around an unlimited number of clubs was seen as unfair. To combat the mistreatment of caddies, the 14-Club rule was put into place.

It seems a little anti-climactic. There wasn’t a golf council that came together to decide on the best rule for club limitations. While that might have been cooler (or significantly more boring), in the end, it was simply kindness.

This does, however, add a strategic element to the game of golf. “What clubs should go in my golf bag?” As many know, the variety of golf clubs out there extends beyond 14 clubs. Since you can’t carry as many clubs as you want, you have to pack more strategically.

On the flip side, there is no minimum rule either. You can walk onto a golf course with one club with the intent of playing every hole. You might not be the most popular person there that day, but having fun is the ultimate goal, so enjoy yourself.

USGA and Tournament Golf Club Regulations

It is best to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations at whatever event you will be participating in. Each one has a different strict set of rules that you will have to adhere to, at risk of being penalized. Let’s look at a few universal rules that you should expect to abide by regarding the contents of your golf bag.

  • Conforming Clubs and Balls: Club head sizes and composition as well as the size and composition of the golf balls are strictly regulated to implement fairness across the board. Every golfer must come prepared with conforming clubs and balls, or risk being disqualified for cheating.
  • No Replacing Damaged or Lost Clubs: Clubs are often lost or damaged due to negligence, misuse, or even intentionally damaging the club in hopes to get it replaced. This rule ensures that the golfer does their best to take care of their equipment while on the course. The exception to this rule is if there is some external factor that causes the club to break, such as someone else on the court intentionally breaking or sabotaging the club.
  • While this might seem like a sort of handicap, especially in the case of accidentally hitting a foreign object or the club slipping out of the golfer’s hands, it also leads back to the 14-club rule. If the golfer has backup clubs, on hand, they are not following the spirit of the 14-club rule
  • No Equipment Offering Artificial Help: This can also cover the use of non-conforming balls and clubs but also extends to other forms of cheating. Adding ChapStick to the face of your club can reduce the spin in the ball, resulting in more accurate shots. Golfers have even been known to drop a green lifesaver candy near their ball to utilize as a tee to launch the ball further. These two examples would be considered cheating and should not be used on the course.
  • No Clubs Intentionally Non-Conforming Clubs After Use or Breaking: Some slick golfers will intentionally create a club that takes on non-conforming characteristics when broken. This is considered cheating. The exception to this rule is when the club experiences normal wear or deterioration and the characteristics change. The club is still considered conforming because there was no malintent.
  • Accountability and Responsibility: It is the player’s responsibility to ensure that all their equipment is conforming. If they have any doubts, they may ask the USGA or other governing body of that tournament. Players may bring non-conforming clubs with them, but they cannot be used, and they count toward their 14-club max.
  • Other Rules: The R&A and USGA Equipment Rules handbook continues for 100 pages and includes many more detailed rules and regulations. From how clubs may be fixed, to club density and angle, the handbook covers any questions a golfer may have before heading out to their tournament. Be sure to check the rules of the specific tournament you are participating in so that you are not accidentally in violation.

Finding the Perfect Golf Club Set

Knowing how many clubs are in a golf bag is step one in preparing for your next golf outing. Finding the perfect golf bag set for you will be sure to impress your friends the next time you meet them on the course.

The Most Common Club Setup

The typical golfer will probably have a setup that looks like this:

  • Driver
  • Pitching Wedge
  • Sand Wedge
  • Gap Wedge
  • Lob Wedge
  • 3-Wood
  • 5-Wood
  • Putter
  • 5 Iron
  • 6 Iron
  • 7 Iron
  • 8 Iron
  • 9 Iron
  • 4 Hybrid

This combination of golf clubs is well balanced and will make sure that you have a club for every terrain, distance, and stroke need. It is great for beginning golfers that may or may not know where they are proficient or excel.

Which Clubs Should You Carry In Your Bag and Why

This is hard to answer as it depends almost entirely on the skill of golfer and the handicaps that they have. For instance, a high handicapper likely isn’t very skilled with a driver, so they may opt to keep that from their bag and lean more on the wedges, hybrids, irons, and putters. Even though it might result in more strokes to reach the hole, it is better than driving the ball in the complete opposite direction, resulting in lost balls and even more strokes. These golfers will carry fewer clubs in their bag.

Then you have mid and low handicappers. The mid-handicapper has gained more experience and can begin to implement a driver into their play as well as additional irons and wedges. Since the golfer has practiced more with these clubs, it won’t be a bad idea to add them to their bag. The low handicapper has gained more skill and can mix things up in their bag a little more. Their bag becomes more catered to their skill level and typically includes fewer irons and hybrids and more wedges for different types of strokes.

Aside from the well-balanced bag, there is no real formula for what each individual golfer may need in their bag. You just have to play and find out what suits you best. If you are not good at self-assessment, many golfers will have a professional assess their abilities and create a list of needs based on the handicap level. This will help them implement an effective strategy for their ability level.

Get on the Course and Have Fun

So, whether you are like Tiger Woods and opt for 14 TaylorMade clubs, or Jack Niklaus, who was so precise with his 14 clubs that the heads were ground down to suit his needs, or you invent your own line of golf equipment, like Arnold Palmer, it all comes down to getting on the course and playing.

Take your 1 to 14 clubs and get to the nearest course to improve your game and maybe you can make it to the next tournament and win.